Portsmouth face drop after devastating loss

Portsmouth coach Ian Chandler    Picture: Mick Young
Portsmouth coach Ian Chandler Picture: Mick Young

PORTSMOUTH have the look of condemned men following their dire 37-7 London two south west relegation-battle defeat at Farnham.

The result means the Rugby Camp head into the final two games of the season in the bottom two and favourites to join already-relegated Tadley.

On a day when a win could have almost guaranteed safety, Ian Chandler’s team froze and now their fate is no longer in their own hands.

They trail Farnham by three points, which means they need to win their last two games and hope the Surrey side slip up.

Chandler was left devastated by the manner of his team’s meek surrender.

‘This is probably the lowest point in my 37 years with Portsmouth Rugby Club,’ said the head coach.

‘A lot of people at the club, coaches included, have to take a long hard look at themselves in the mirror.

‘We turned in a very poor performance and lacked the belief just when we needed it the most.

‘This was the club’s biggest game for a long time and we came up desperately short.

‘We have the rugby playing ability in the squad but lacked the mental strength to get the result we needed.

‘Once we suffer a couple of setbacks, we let them affect us and our game goes to pieces.

‘Losing becomes a difficult habit to break.’

Portsmouth started well, playing against a strong wind blowing down the pitch and after 20 minutes there was still no score on the board.

The visitors totally dominated that opening spell with Farnham struggling to get their hands on the ball.

Two mistakes allowed Farnham to kick two penalties, though, and the home side were then gifted an unfortunate try.

Portsmouth made the mistake of not playing to the whistle following a blatant knock-on and the hosts went in at the break with an 18-point lead.

‘We felt we were still in with a great chance with the wind behind us in the second half,’ said Chandler.

‘A win was still very much on the cards for us if we did things right.

‘Unfortunately, the confidence had drained out of our team and they lacked the belief.

‘Three times we aimlessly kicked the ball away, allowing Farnham to counter-attack and open up a 37-0 lead.

‘Disappointingly, Farnham showed they wanted it more than we did and played with more passion and purpose.’

Number eight Toby Hill, one of the only players to come out of the game with any credit, grabbed a consolation try for Portsmouth in the closing minutes.

It was far too little, too late for the visitors.

Portsmouth now have to beat Old Reigatians at Rugby Camp next weekend and Old Alleynians away in the final game to stand any chance.

Chandler and his coaches face the difficult task of picking their team up off the canvas to go again.